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Adult incontinence products.


For the moment, let's begin with a clean slate. Forget biodegradability. Forget price. Forget gender-specific. Forget thin versus thick, superabsorbent and foam thisses and cuff thatses. Start a decade ago with a big, bulky, uncomfortable adult diaper that was little more than a larger version of a baby diaper with a unique conulated cover stock. What do we really know about the people who use adult incontinence products?

Incontinence is a symptom that can strike anyone, anywhere. Money can't shield one from it. Social position can't. Education can't. The government can't. Incontinence strikes across all socio-economic-political cultural barriers. Yet the topic is taboo.

There's much we don't know. Now let's look at some of the general assumptions about incontinent adults that many of us believe to be true: More older than younger people are incontinent. More women than men. Incontinence is a social stigma that people have carried around with them since they first learned from their parents that they could be trusted and that this trust was given to them because they knew when they had "to go" and could control it until they got to a bathroom.

We know from studies conducted in industrialized countries that the incidence of incontinence is nearly the same the world over. Dealing with incontinence is a deeply personal, highly involved decision-making process that directly affects a person's mobility, comfort, sense of self-esteem and perceived sociability and social acceptance. In other words, the demographics of the adult incontinence market are about as confusing and involved as can be.

Despite the demographics being an analyst's nightmare; despite the difficulty of retailers guessing as to where to merchandise incontinence products in their floor plans; despite the traditional competition from baby diapers and feminine hygiene products used to care for incontinence; despite all that, the market for adult incontinence products has grown beyond expectations in the past years. This is the absorbent products' hottest market.

The Major Players

The retail market is dominated by four manufacturers: Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and ICD. The first three have nationally branded products, while ICD is a private label and controlled label producer. Across the country, in almost any drugstore, you are bound to see "Depend," "Attends," "Serenity" and a house brand. Look closely at the house brand. It probably takes up the second most amount of shelf space, just after Depend, and outdistances both Serenity and Attends combined.

Kimberly-Clark is reaping the benefits of its persistent national advertising campaign. Begun more than five years ago, it used well known personality June Allyson as spokesperson to champion Depend; it pioneered the use of national television to open this self-stigmatized market and it helped convince the skeptical editors of national magazines, such as Modern Maturity, to include adult incontinence product advertising. With just under 50% of the retail market share, K-C has earned its success.

Part of the surprise of this year's increased sales of incontinence products was the cooperation and creativity of storekeepers. Manufacturers produced sample size packages of their diapers, undergarments and shields and retailers helped move products by placing displays of adult incontinence products close to cash registers. A major hurdle, inhibition, had to be overcome.

Education is critical. National organizations such as non-profit Help for Incontinent People (HIP) of Spartanburg, SC, planned and implemented systematic education of its members, health professionals and, through its innovative "Industry Council," manufacturers. Education works.

Articles appear monthly concerning the merchandising of adult incontinence products and druggists are instructed on the "Right Approach" with customers. Incontinence is big business. Not yet as big as the baby diaper business, but growing fast. As reported in The Boston Globe, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that the yearly cost of what were euphemistically termed "adult protective garments" could exceed eight billion dollars.

In short, retailers are finding that despite what druggists consider low profit margins of 25%, sales volume is large and growing and that purchasers of adult incontinence products purchase more than just incontinence products when they are in their stores. The incontinence business is making a lot of dollars and sense.

By comparison, the institutional market for adult incontinence products, previously considered the best market with known risks and benefits and of secure seven-10% annual growth, is now considered an adequate, but not exciting, market.

The most successful product in the retail market is the two-piece system. Adult undergarments outsell all other incontinence products combined. K-C originally introduced the folded undergarment with belts into the market nine years ago and three years was followed by Procter & Gamble, which introduced an Attends undergarment with elastic gathers. K-C followed with its elasticated undergarment and now offers both styles. ICD followed years later with a "Suretys" elasticated version for private label and, most recently, Medical Disposables, Marietta, GA, unveiled its own belted, elasticated "Sure Care" undergarments. The belt and button manufacturers are all smiles.

Johnson & Johnson's Serenity, an insert type incontinence pad, is available nationally and enjoying as much as a 20% market share. Serenity is now packaged in high count large poly bags as well as low-count boxes and is supported with an active coupon and television advertising campaign that has left a strong, favorable impression on women. Serenity changed from using Mastech's "Core Web" to Chicopee's pleated composite material with crimped ends for a smoother, more modest shape. J&J sold its "Skin-Caring" adult diaper to Scott Healthcare, permitting J&J to concentrate on Serenity in the retail market while Scott pursues the institutional market with its own adult diaper.

An Array Of Market Approaches

Absorbent, comfortable, small, discreet and silent are the vital qualities that must be designed into products to succeed in the adult incontinence market.

The most recent entrant into the exciting retail adult incontinence product market is Pope & Talbot's "Full Life" insert pad. Introduced on March 5 in the Portland, ME area, Full Life offers a new thermal bonded core utilizing Weyerhaeuser and Hercules' latest technologies. Folds formed in the crotch area when the fluff is cut to create the leg indentations reduce reclaiming and recycling while at the same time building fluff "ridge dams" along each side of the crotch. For "boating" - the ability of the pad to contour to the vertical shape of the perineum - the pad has three strands of "Lycra XA" running along each side and is loaded with odor-eliminating superabsorbent polymer (SAP).

Private label industry leader, ICD, purchased Weyerhaeuser-made adult diapers that are distributed under private label to its accounts of ICD's shields and undergarments. It is believed that ICD will begin producing its own adult diapers by year end.

The Biodegradability Question

The marketing hype and associated controversy over biodegradability did not directly impact the adult incontinence product market in the past year. There are three principal reasons.

The first is that in comparison with the disposable baby diaper market, the adult incontinence market is still relatively unknown to the public. The second is that most adult incontinence products sold at retail are smaller than baby diapers and are sold in fewer numbers. But what about those adult diapers, which are as big as umbrellas?

Thirdly, most adult diapers are sold into institutions where, for concern of nosocomial diseases and especially the current fear of AIDS, all institutional waste gets incinerated. Most hospitals have two types of trash cans: cans for writing paper and cans for everything else. Hospital waste management is done by weight, not biodegradability. Products that offer weight and size reductions have sales advantages into big hospitals.

The retail adult incontinence market is still sound and it is an ideal market for new ideas. Entrepreneurs with fresh approaches have opportunities to establish themselves. A number of companies introduced new products or repackaged current products to assuage the consciences of consumers and attract sales.

Reusability, rather than biodegradability, is considered by many current manufacturers of retail incontinence products to be the wave of the future. Reusable products are initially more expensive than disposables, but are far more economical in the long term. The newly renamed Salk Company, a pioneer in the incontinence industry, recently made bold moves into the retail market with its new "Carefor" brand of reusable incontinence pants, undergarments, pads and bedpads. Med-I-Pant, Montreal, Canada, reintroduced an expanded reusable product line under the new "Priva" brand name. The Priva logo is a healthy green tree and the words "Environmentally Friendly."

Nishiki of Japan, an outsider to the baby diaper business with its upscale, two piece reusable cotton waterproof and breathable pant with reusable or biodegradable disposable pads, has begun a small but active national advertising campaign promoting its adult version to dealers in the U.S. Humanicare, stalwart of reusable adult incontinence systems, introduced its Dignity "Naturals" biodegradable pad with a cotton covering. In a year of heightened environmental awareness, of claims and counterclaims, Principle Business Enterprises reintroduced its "Tranquility" product line featuring distinctive peach color cores and promoting the disposable line as a "75% Biodegradable Product."

For manufacturers of nonwovens, all this activity carries with it both good and bad news. The bad news is that sales of reusable products will slow the skyrocketing use of nonwoven coverstock slightly. The good news is that the demand for needlepunched polyester and rayon and polypropylene nonwovens as the absorbent cores of reusable products will increase.

A Look At The Overseas Market

The U.S. market for adult incontinence products is growing faster than expected, but the Japanese market grew 123% in 1988 and 124% in 1990! The total size of the current Japanese market is smaller at $97 million.

The rapid increase of the Japanese market is in part attributable to lifestyle changes among Japanese families. Slowly changing values and greater disposable incomes are reducing the amount of time that Japanese children are willing to spend in traditional roles, although more and more parents are having to live in their children's homes. The remarkable growth is directly attributable to the fact that as of Jan. 1, 1988, disposable adult incontinence products used at home for the bedridden are medical expenses deductible against personal income taxes.

The current trend or product mix is away from underpads and towards undergarments. In 1988, the mix was 80% underpads/20% undergarments; in 1989, the mix was 70% underpads/30% undergarments.

Labor shortages and increased labor costs are prompting hospitals to consider disposables as alternatives to the traditional reusable incontinence products. Health and environmental concerns coupled with chronic labor shortages are prompting the government to research the feasibility of equipping every hospital in Japan with an incinerator.

With 20% penetration, the Japanese incontinence market is led by Hakujuji (23%), Procter & Gamble (15%), (Koyo (19%), Dajichi-Eizai (7%) and Pigeon (6.5%).

The U.S. Adult Incontinence Market

The size of the U.S. adult incontinence market continues to grow in terms of the total potential market, in terms of actual dollar sales, in terms of unit sales and in terms of market penetration.

By the year 2000, 15% of all Americans will be over the age of 65. More than half of the nation's assets and discretionary income - we used to refer to this as "disposable income," but even that now carries a negative connotation - will be controlled by people over 50.

It was predicted that the overall growth of the retail market in 1989 would be better than 20%. By July, 1989, Private Label Magazine was reporting that private label incontinence products surged 45% ahead of 1988 figures. By yearend, the growth was closer to 30%. Institutional market growth turtled along at a comfortable 10%.

For 1990, however, there is a prevailing feeling of conservatism among manufacturers. In a separate survey conducted by Private Label Product News, executives in the private label adult incontinence industry estimated that their growth for 1990 would be a modest 10.4%. Their approach is responsibly cautious, but the total adult incontinence products market should grow at a healthier rate of 20-25%.

One startling observation from the explosive growth of 1989 was that adult incontinence products were impulse purchases that generated repeat sales. If this remains a trend, then it may mean that within the consuming public that people are so accustomed to using substitute and make-shift products that they have not, until recently, begun to shop for incontinence specific products.

And if this trend continues, growth of adult incontinence products is likely to reach even dizzier heights in 1990.

Table : U.S. Disposable Incontinence Products Market

(Millions of Dollars - Manufacturer Level)
Year Institutions Retial Range Combined Markets
1987 250 157-181 407-431
1988 269 205-235 474-504
1989 296 285-300 581-596

Table : Total U.S. Incontinence Market

(Sales of Body-Contacting Products, Millions of Dollars)

Institutional (mostly diaper style) 197
Retail (mostly undergarment pads) 382
Underpads for beds (90%) institutional) 110
Feminine Pads (used for incontinence, est.) 363
Baby Diapers (used for incontinence, est.) 1198


Institutional and Retail 259

Durables (Urologicals)
Hospitals 187
Nursing Homes 48
Retail 31
Total 2775

PHOTO : Pope & Talbot's Full Life insert pad is the most exciting new incontinence product on the market.

John Bouda is general manager of MB Products, Ltd., Asheville, NC, a supplier of two-piece incontinence systems. Mr. Bouda, who has written in the past on the topic of incontinence for Nonwovens Industry, has graduate and post-graduate degrees from Brown University and is currently on the board of governors of Brown.

Francis Bouda, perhaps one of the most well-know consultants to disposable products industry, is a frequent contributor to Nonwovens Industry on a variety of topics. He is also a frequent speaker on patents and the personal products markets at industry meetings. Mr. Bouda operates his international consulting business from Cleveland, WI.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:fastest growing category of absorbent products
Author:Bouda, John M.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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